Saturday, September 19, 2020

MAZDA'S HEART TRANSPLANT - 'X', EXPLAINED by John Crawford

Here’s the Mazda 3 I’ve been waiting to drive. This car features Mazda’s extraordinary new petrol engine, with SkyActivX technology.


Mazda is not exactly unused to developing revolutionary or extraordinary engine concepts – witness, its amazing ability to tame the Wankel Rotary engine, which powered Mazdas from 1965. There were constant revisions and improvements to the original concept right through until 2012 when it was last used in the RX-8.

 

Probably, for the Mazda engineering team behind the program, the greatest success was when the 900hp, Mazda 787B, 4-rotor-engined race car won the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans.





Marked by its piercing scream as it wound up to full pitch along pit straight, Mazda took the lead 21 hours into the race and held on to beat both Mercedes and Jaguar to the chequered flag.

 

Several records were established. It was the first time the race was not won by a conventional piston engine; and Mazda was the first Asian car company to take victory.

 

I have always held Mazda in very high regard for its engineering prowess, its willingness to take on challenges, and the integrity of its approach to solving difficult problems. It is an outstanding company populated by seasoned and highly-talented, competent engineers.

 

So, we come to the SkyActivX engine. The car pictured here looks virtually no different to the current Mazda 3, but it’s all happening under the hood.



To explain how SKYACTIV-X works I am quoting from the press kit. This explanation is concise and without hyperbole, and I think it quickly puts you in the picture:

 

We’ll first need to cover some engine basics. In a gasoline engine the fuel-air mixture is ignited by a spark from the spark plug. In a diesel engine, the fuel-air mix is compressed and ignites through pressure and heat alone.

 

Diesel is more energy dense than gasoline, which also means more air and less fuel goes in, making for better fuel economy. And although diesel engines tend to release less carbon dioxide than gasoline engines, they traditionally emit higher levels of particulates that can cause pollution. 

 

Diesels, which are often turbocharged, have a reputation for having lots of torque even at low revs, while gasoline engines can rev higher and produce more horsepower at those high revs.

 

SKYACTIV-X offers the best of both diesel and gasoline engines with none of the disadvantages. It does this thanks to a new technology called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI).

 

Running on regular gasoline, SPCCI works by compressing the fuel-air mix at a much higher compression ratio, with a very lean mix. The SKYACTIV-X engine uses a spark to ignite only a small, dense amount of the fuel-air mix in the cylinder.

 

This raises the temperature and pressure so that the remaining fuel-air mix ignites under pressure (like a diesel), burning faster and more completely than in conventional engines.


Mazda claims 10 to 30 percent more torque than the current SKYACTIV-G gasoline engine, with better fuel efficiency than the current SKYACTIV-D, and a power increase of 10 percent.



The Engine - Nothing to see here. It's all buried deep inside.


My takeout on the new engine. It is generously powerful, has a nice subdued, but throaty roar, and is very flexible. From behind the wheel you shouldn’t expect to experience any ‘real’ differences’, but the overall performance is very impressive. 

 

Quite frankly I don’t think owners will notice any difference at all, but the improvement in torque, fuel economy and emissions results (even though they’re on paper) are outstanding.



I had only two criticisms of the test car. The secondary ride was poorly controlled, making the car feel ‘jittery’ over less than perfect surfaces, and from my driver’s seat setup, the Heads-Up Display created a really annoying reflection in the windscreen.

 

Apart from those two minor complaints, the main impression you are left with is that Mazda has produced a premium car in every respect. It offers outstanding interior finish, equipment and comfort; excellent road manners and the major gains in the engine data we’ve highlighted. The margins, fit and finish are excellent.


At around AUD$42,000 it's quite a step up from a regular Mazda 3 petrol at AUD$26,000 - so, is it worth the difference?



 

Whatever Mazda is charging for this Mazda 3, it’s worth it. The quality and finish rivals anything coming from the premium car makers of Europe.


John Crawford

OSCAR PIASTRI - F1 WINNER-IN-WAITING by Paul Gover

Formula One is waiting for Aussie Oscar Piastri after he clinched the FIA Formula 3 Championship for 2020.


As Mark Webber welcomed him with a hug at the end of his winning campaign, the big question now is where he will land for 2021.

 

Having won the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup title, Piastri was named as a new Renault Academy driver for 2020, with a new team.


This year was supposed to have been a learning year in F3 for the Melbourne teenager, but the rookie has already proven he has the right stuff for a graduation to Formula 2 next year, and perhaps to follow Webber and Daniel Ricciardo onto the grand prix grid.


Piastri showed his class and commitment as he kept his head through the championship decider at the undulating, fast and twisty Mugello circuit in Italy, although he could not resist a last-second pass that took him to seventh place on the finish line.



“That was a massive sigh of relief. I cannot believe I just won the title,” Piastri says.

He faced an uphill battle at the start of the decider as he was only 11th on the grid and his main title rival, his American team-mate Prema Racing’s Logan Sargeant (top right), was six places closer to the front.


But Sargeant crashed out of the race at the second corner and Piastri only had to manage the points gap to mercurial German youngster Theo Pourchaire (bottom right), who rose steadily to finish third but could still not stop Piastri taking the title with a three-point margin after 18 races.

 

“I feel so bad for Logan. You never want to see that. I would have wanted to fight to the death,” says Piastri.

 

It’s been a tough year for Piastri, who has been a little short on qualifying speed and also had a series of mechanical dramas in the middle of the season.


But he dug deep and did the job in Mugello, showing once again why he has earned Webber’s backing, and won a place in the Renault Academy that is being used to groom future F1 stars.




He looked completely drained after the championship decider and was happy to admit it.


“Exhausted. To be honest. Tough race. And the last few weeks have really tested me emotionally,” he says.

 

“I think I’ve been quite consistent over the year. And the way I’ve bounced back from all the setbacks. I think my consistency, and keeping my head cool, was the biggest thing.”

 

But he is not alone, as a long line of Australians have used success in Formula 3 – often against the odds – as a springboard into Formula One.


The first was little-known Dave Walker (below), who is now retired in Queensland after a relatively short career in the 1970s that pivoted on an F3 title in Britain and took him into the Lotus F1 team.


Larry Perkins, best known for his six wins in the Bathurst 1000, was also an F3 champion in Britain, and raced F1 for a string of middling teams including BRM and Brabham.

David Brabham, youngest son of Sir Jack, also won the British F3 title but never made it beyond the tail end of Formula One, while Daniel Ricciardo was also the British F3 champion before graduating to F1.

 

For Piastri, there are also examples of Aussies who were more than good enough for F1 but didn’t quite make the grade in F3.

 

Alan Jones never had enough money in his early European racing and lost the British F3 championship at the last round, while Mark Webber – also cash strapped in F3 – finished his series in fourth.

 

The 2020 campaign has not been easy for Piastri, even though he is a member of the Renault Sport Academy, and was placed with the crack Prema team for a serious tilt at the title in his F3 rookie year.

 

Oscar was a star from the start, winning the first race of the season, but mechanical problems have cost him points. The F3 format, where the second race each weekend has a reverse grid for the Top 10 finishers from the Saturday feature, has also cost him points.


However, he is now being managed, mentored and guided by one of Australia's high achieving F1 drivers, Mark Webber and his wife Ann.



Yes, the future looks bright for this talented youngster, and I'm sure Australian Formula One fans will be watching his progress with a keen eye - I know I will.

 

Paul Gover

CARS, CHARACTERS, CLASSICS & CAMARADERIE - WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE? - by Peter McKay

The glorious undulating, snaking roads around Adelaide are pretty enticing, especially when the authorities agree to block off some of them to allow assorted maniacs and enthusiasts to have a blast in their rather eclectic choice of machinery, new or elderly.



Or, better, a machine thoughtfully provided by someone else, like a car brand or a collector.



This was Classic Adelaide, an excellent idea dreamed up in the mid 1990s by collector and enthusiast, the late John Blanden, to give lovers of motorised transport the opportunity to drive their glorious sporty machinery in the manner intended.

Above: John Blanden (Ctr) with Moss & Fangio - Adelaide 1985
 

Back in 2003, the year highlighted in this recollection, the event unfolded as a lovely, crazy blend of all manner of vehicles and pilotes.

 

Conveniently most of the stages were within 50km of Adelaide’s languidly beating heart– jinking through the wine country - Barossa Valley, the Hills, McLaren Vale and around Victor Harbour.



Spectacular Aussie scenery, brilliant and challenging roads for drivers both brazen and, if they choose, less adventurous. 


In 2003, there was a record 34 closed road special stages totalling 250km, rimmed by gaping, appreciative spectators taking in the sounds and sights of a fast-moving car museum.


There were reconstructed competition cars; restored historic cars, and a lot of newer machinery which really turned heads - given the total value of ALL the cars on show.



They were driven by a cast that ranged from world champ Jack Brabham, and his old mate and rival Stirling Moss, Le Mans winner Vern Schuppan (left), television star Glenn Ridge, author Doug Nye and a host of assorted characters and car cuddlers. 

 

Gals, blokes, teenagers, septuagenarians, European toffs, colourful American collectors, Aussie characters… with varying skill levels, but petrol heads all.


Classic Adelaide was a heady $35 million mix of the exotic, the well-preserved, the new and efficient, the rare, and in the case of a Volkswagen Beetle, the questionably bourgeois. The oldest car in this event was the 1920 Frontenac Indianapolis Special driven by Victorians Wes and Dianne Wilkinson. 

 

“I love looking at old cars, but I don’t know about driving them,” Schuppan told me by way of explaining his choice of weaponry, a modern Mercedes AMG SLK 32.  Brabham’s silver plaything was a current SL 500 but fellow knight Moss, was entrusted with something from “his” era, a sonorous 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SLS sports car flown out from the Benz Museum in Stuttgart, specially for the event.



Despite recently turning 74, Moss was clearly not disposed to nanna naps when he could either be wringing the neck of the $1 million dollar (back then; circa $2 million today) museum piece, or enjoying Adelaide’s finest restaurants.

 

For when everyone was done with getting the adrenaline pumping and armpits moist, there was some serious socialising at night.

 

The Thoroughbred Touring category was where Moss, Brabham, and Schuppan lined-up, along with many others in vehicles of assorted vintages and value.  This category was favoured by many of the overseas enthusiasts, particularly those not prepared to fit cages to their precious toys. 

 

The regulations permitted the absence of a roll cage but insisted on a helmet and CAMS competition licence. The stages were untimed, and competitors were pegged to a 130km/h limit.  This last imposition was no hardship on tight, narrow and ever twisting roads.  Even constrained to these speeds, there were some expensive crashes.

 

Here was my close shave with a legend, part of a story I wrote for Wheels magazine…

Wow, that was so-o close, folks! 

 

At Yankalilla I nearly have a jolting head-on shunt with Stirling Moss. But at the last possible moment, he propped, and I jinked left.

It happened when he was coming out of the toilet, and I was heading in…

 

Yes, participants and spectators get more than the chance of a brush with fame during the Classic Adelaide Rally. Some lucky sod probably had his boots splashed by Sir Stirl.

 

In what other motor racing event do regular people get the chance to compete with the elite in their sport?

 

Part of the attraction of Classic Adelaide, apart from the extraordinary machinery, and the thrill of sharing challenging roads with the legends, and the bonhomie among the competitors, is the social stuff.


On Thursday, the luncheon stop is at Peter Lehman’s winery, cars parked on the rolling lawns.  So steamy hot is the weather that a couple of gals in an E-Type Roadster reportedly whip off their tops, and remove their bras.  Someone provide the photographic evidence, pullEEEEZE!

 

Out and about in just about any place on the planet, Stirling Moss was never unaware of the significantly-elevated place he earned in motor sporting antiquity. Sir Stirling, who died earlier this year after a hectic 90 years on earth, held a special place in the hearts of motor sports followers. 

 


At Classic Adelaide for the first time, the best driver never to win a world championship donned his familiar old pale blue Dunlop racing overalls and Herbie Johnson helmet. He mingled, chatted, signed autographs, posed for photos…

 

He told me he competed in about 10 historic motor sporting events a year – “four like this one and the Tour de France, and the rest are race festivals such as Goodwood”.

“I do all I can, but it’s not that easy, especially in old cars.”

 

Moss proved to be an enthusiastic advocate of the event and its host city. “The roads here are stunning and the whole set-up is unbeatable - and I’ve done a lot of great road races.

 

“Adelaide and its people are so welcoming and enthusiastic,” said the great man from beneath his characteristic 365-days-a-year tan. “I’ve never known a village of one million people and I say that in the nicest possible way.  They have sensational wines here too, and that is important to me.

 

“It’s an event of great character.  People have been telling me for ages, ‘Stirling, you must do it’, and now I’ve managed to fit it in, and I’m so glad.

“Pace notes would be helpful, though, I must say.”

And what would be an ideal car for Classic Adelaide?  “Oh, a Chevron B16 on treaded tyres, or maybe a Lotus 7.”

 

Until slowed by a bad fall down a lift shaft in his home in 2010, Moss continued to participate in historic races and rallies.  

 

On 9 June 2011 during qualifying for the Le Mans Legends race, Moss announced he had finally retired from racing, saying that he had scared himself that afternoon. He was 81.

 

We should all count ourselves lucky that we had so much of the great man for so many years.

 

Peter McKay

Friday, September 18, 2020

WELCOME, PETER McKAY - by John Crawford

When you're as old as I am, and been around cars and motor sport most of your adult life you collect some great friends along the way.

Such is the case with my good friend Peter McKay, whom it's been a pleasure to know since I first began writing about cars and motor sport, so that's more than 40 years on. We've enjoyed each other's company many times on press drives when I was Editor of MODERN MOTOR magazine.

Peter is an extremely talented driver, who has enjoyed some great competition drives on the racetrack, and has been a longtime correspondent for Australia's WHEELS magazine, and The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

He possesses that rare combination of skill, experience, commonsense and humility. Oh, nearly forgot, he's also a bloody good journalist too.

It was this combo which provided an opportunity for me to introduce him to the Bugatti Veyron in 2008, on its one and only visit to Australia, and for Peter to enjoy a few laps of the Sandown Park circuit under the eye of the car's 'Pilote Officiel' Pierre-Henri Raphanel.



In fact, Peter is one of only two Australians who drove that Veyron - the other being my close friend and regular contributor to DRIVING & LIFE, Paul Gover.

 Here's a link to Peter's story:

http://www.drivingandlife.com/2019/03/bugatti-veyron-more-projectile-than-car.htm

Of all his motoring exploits one stands out in his memory, and that is the 2003 Classic Adelaide Rally, attended by a pantheon of luminaries including Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jack Brabham - among others.

Peter has contributed a valuable insight into the event, the cars and the characters for DRIVING & LIFE in the next Post.

So, welcome Peter, and maybe you'll be able to let us look in on other aspects of your life with cars.

John Crawford

Monday, September 14, 2020

LAMBORGHINI HURACAN EVO - THE SPEEDY-IST SHOPPING TROLLEY by Paul Gover

It’s Sunday morning and coffee with cars is calling.

 

Bellissimo. There is a Lamborghini Huracan EVO Spyder in the driveway. What could be better for Sunday fun than the most dramatic new model in the Italian supercar company's catalogue?




It is bold, it is brilliant, but there is a faint whiff of danger whenever I pick up the keys.

 

The EVO Spyder is the newest member of the Huracan line-up, combining the open-air attraction of a convertible - with a drop-down rear window for more aural excitement - and the rear-wheel drive focus of a pure driving machine. Yes, as opposed to some of Lambo's AWD options, this one is pure rear drive.





It means you can dribble around enjoying the scenery, or put your foot down to pump up your heart rate faster than any coffee shot.

 

My time in the Huracan brings challenges and conflicting emotions. It is, to be honest, far too fast for ordinary Aussie roads. And people are always watching, with their phone cameras and dash cams, waiting for you to do something silly.

 

It is a silly car, and somewhere like Phillip Island - where I have driven fast-as-I-like in both the Huracan and Aventador - is where you must go to have any sort of sensible and worthwhile immersion in the car.

 

Instead, I’m close to home and just once do I get to feel the front-end grip being challenged on my favourite hilltop test road. The engine is bellowing and it slingshots from corner to corner, but this is a one-off and I quickly have to settle down and not anger the locals or frighten the wildlife.



So it’s point-and-squirt for most of the time, changing the settings occasionally to get maximum Italian volume and emotion from the exhaust, and generally just enjoying the attention from people who look and point and smile and, sometimes, laugh.

This is not a car for a quick whip to the shops. A compact SUV like the Hyundai Venue or Kia Seltos, is much better suited as a grocery-getter in a minefield of tight parking spots.

 

You can take it to the shops, and I did, but it much prefers a winding country road with no traffic on a Sunday morning. There are days and places where the EVO Spyder is unbeatable.

That is, of course, if you have something in excess of AUD$500,000 to splash on your very special new car. Lamborghini says owners typically have four-or-more cars in the garage, often including an upscale SUV like Lambo’s own wicked-looking Urus, and want to make a statement with a Huracan Spyder. And it does.

 

The convertible roof is fast and efficient, there is almost zero buffeting or body flex with the roof down, and the V10 engine is magnificent.




It is also lashed with high-quality leather, carbon fibre and technology, including an 8.4-inch infotainment touch screen.


And there is always the START BUTTON, which deserves Bold, Capital letters because it looks more like a missile launcher button than anything as boring as a car starter.


The controls also include three performance modes, with another special button on the steering wheel.



Even in 'Strada-mode' it’s a fire-and-brimstone speed machine, but there are also 'Sport' and the manic 'Corsa', which is what you need to catapult you to 100km/h in 3.5 seconds and on to the top speed - irrelevant in Australia - of 325km/h.

But the headline numbers are just numbers and the good thing about the EVO Spyder is the way it drives, and responds, and makes driving into an old-school challenge.


You have only to ease your foot onto the throttle to leave the traffic behind, or have people reaching for their phones to take a picture.

 

Still, the Huracan is not just about speed. You can also turn the exhaust note up to crazy and it will pop and bang like the V10-powered road racer that it is.



In fact, it’s a lot like those crazy-costly Pinarello and Wilier and Specialized bicycles you see outside trendy coffee shops on Sunday mornings. They do the same as other people-powered two-wheelers, and will keep you fit, but they are also about turning heads and making yourself feel better about your business success and your place in the world.

 

Viewed that way, as the car is sitting quietly against the kerb outside my favourite barista bar, the Huracan EVO Spyder makes sense. In Italian it's a Doppio Espresso!

 

It’s a crazy and slightly scary car. It’s definitely not for everyone, but on the right day and on the right road it is a very, very special car.



It’s great that we still have it, in a world of COVID restrictions, growing electrification, and the spectre of self-driving cars.


Paul Gover

AUDI S3 - R GOLF WITH BETTER BREEDING? by Paul Gover

If you’re looking for the best in a Volkswagen Golf, take a look at the Audi S3. It won’t be cheap, because an Audi badge and cabin comes with a premium, but there are plenty of people who are prepared to pay an extra $8000 to get a Golf R with all the Audi herbs and spices.

 

Audi manages to inject a serving of ’special’ into a car which is still one of the very best in the compact class, even as the Golf 8 is on short-final for a landing in Australia.




The S3 has recently received a value boost with close to $9000 of extra gear, from its 19-inch alloys to sports seats with Nappa leather, a wireless phone-charger pad in the centre console, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and LED headlights.

 

But the key difference between an S3 and a Golf R is the body.

 

While Volkswagen gets through its Golf game with a conventional five-door hatchback, the S3 can come as a Sportback, a sedan or a cabriolet.



My styling favourite is the Sportback, which has a distinctive look in a sea of me-too shapes as well as a roomy boot and a roofline that gives a little more head space in the back seat. It’s not as spacious as a wagon, but the bigger boxy tail is a practical design.

 

The S3 is a brisk little beastie, not as aggressive as the RS3 that sits at the top of the A3 family, but more than quick enough for all conditions. It can really sprint with 213 kiloWatts and all-wheel drive, and is a rewarding and responsive drive in twisty terrain.

 

Some people find the DSG gearbox a little unrefined, and reluctant to take a manual down-change at times, but I find it generally good, and it has great economy with quiet and composed touring.

 

The suspension can be firm on a bumpy road, but leave the driving mode set in ‘comfort’ and there is nothing to cause any discomfort. Actually, I only once tripped it up to Sport and that was to have some fun with the farty exhaust note, and uncork all of the performance on a remote country road.




Driving the S3 is enjoyable for almost all the time, although I’m not a fan of Audi’s intrusive driver-assistance systems.


My first job in the car is to wind down the settings, and completely disable the lane-assistance that is far, far too keen to take control of the steering if it thinks you’re doing something wrong.

 

Usually, I am not. And there is no need to be fighting a car because you touch a white line on the inside of a corner.

 

The S3 has a great sound package, the lights are good - but not as sharp as some of the newer ‘active’ LED systems - and the brakes are strong.

 

It’s a car which gradually wins me over, despite the price and knowing that it’s really a Golf R in a party frock, albeit a high couture car that costs AUD$64,200!



Audi buyers are more likely to be cross-shopping a BMW or a Benz and, for that reason, it’s a car you'll enjoy, and should be added to the shopping list for a comparison test drive.

 

Paul Gover


POSTSCRIPT: In my time as a motoring journalist, and corporate executive with the VW Group I have driven a large number of Audi's, and it remains one of my favourite brands.

However, I'm making a big call today, when I completely endorse all of Paul's opinions about the S3. Never mind the topline RS3, I believe the S3 is the best Audi I've driven in years!



Sure, it's expensive, but in terms of the combination of performance, ride, handling and comfort + equipment levels, this car has great breeding coursing through its veins. It is a great package, compact, chuckable, comfortable and sporty.

You get a lot for your money, and the driving experience will keep you coming back for more. It's the MOST cost-effective sports sedan available in Australia, so just as Paul stated - "Put it on the shopping list".


John Crawford

Saturday, September 12, 2020

FROM A BOX IN THE ATTIC by John Crawford

 My good friend in the UK who sent me the photo of 'Poggio Bartoli', the former Medici hunting lodge near Vecchio, has recently been 'tidying up' in his attic, and in an old cardboard box of memorabilia came across, in his words 'a scruffy bit of paper', whose value today I think could even top the sale price of his former vacation home in Tuscany.

He told me proudly: "I collected all these at Cheshunt, and the 1965 Racing Car Show at Olympia."

"I haven’t done the sums accurately but I think there are about 10 World Championship wins, over 100 Grand Prix wins, and maybe 6 Indie wins all on that one piece of scruffy paper."


John Crawford


Friday, September 11, 2020

MUGELLO MAKES WAY FOR F1 - by John Crawford

This coming weekend F1 fans will be focussing on a circuit more famous for exciting Moto GP races. The Mugello valley was originally settled by a Ligurian tribe known as the Magelli, hence the name. Then came the Etruscans, and subsequently the Romans, who conquered and colonized Mugello (pronounced 'Moo-Jello)  in the 4th century BC.

 

Mugello is a brand-new race venue for F1, with the sport having only been to the track for testing – most recently for a group test in 2012. I think it looks a fabulous circuit, challenging, undulating and from this aerial view, very fast corners.





This means the teams are heading into the weekend with limited data, making ‘driver in the loop simulation’ all the more important, with scanning and mapping helping to create a realistic representation of the circuit.

 

However, put aside the high-tech support for today’s F1 drivers for a moment, and think back to the era of Moss, Gurney, Clark and Hill. When those guys went to a new circuit for the first time, they just got out on the track and used their skill and race experience to know how to drive it. However, I will admit today’s cars are much faster and the higher cornering speeds do call for as much technical input as possible.

 



Mugello will be an extreme high-speed challenge, with initial findings suggesting grip-limited cornering speeds to be higher than both Austria and Britain, and the lowest cornering speed around 120km/h. The track is expected to have the high-speed cornering characteristics of Spa and Monza, without the sensitivity to drag. Being a lower efficiency circuit, drivers will be able to rely on high downforce setups to get the best out of their cars.


Mugello will put pressure on the teams to learn quickly as they evaluate data during the practice sessions and correlation to pre-event work will be a key focus. It’s a race on and off the track!



Scuderia Ferrari acquired the Mugello circuit in 1988 for testing its F1 technology, as an adjunct to what it learns at Fiorano. Ferrari also uses it to host meetings of the Scuderia Ferrari Club, which means the Tifosi will be out in force this weekend.


John Crawford






Thursday, September 10, 2020

HOW TO 'HUNT' DOWN A FORTUNE by John Crawford

 An additional yarn from my friend who owned the villa near Mugello.

"Just below our house was a Medici ‘Casa di Cacchio’ or Hunting Lodge called ‘Poggio Bartoli’. A local contractor spent someone else’s fortune completely restoring it - using original 16th Century building and painting materials."



It was turned into a luxury B&B with gourmet dinners by arrangement with a local 5-Star restaurant. As my friend points out, the 'Surrey Set' who used to rent expensive villas in 'Chiantishire' kept the B&B and the restaurant in business - which could prove difficult to sustain in these days of Coronavirus.

John Crawford

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

'DEV' - OUR MAN IN LONDON by John Crawford

‘Dev’ Dvoretsky was ‘a character’; a ‘wag’, but in good old Aussie lingo, he was ‘a larrikin’.

 

In late 1976 the CEO of MODERN MAGAZINES, Arnold Quick, called me into his office and threw a pile of Dev’s expense account reports across the desk, saying: “Have you seen these?”

 

I thumbed through the pile, and said: “Yes, I recognise the ones related to MODERN MOTOR, the others belong to the other publications."


Modern Magazines had a total of nine other publications, which all used contributions from Dev.

 

Quick said: “It’s not good enough. He’s robbing us! I know you’re going on a press trip to the UK, so I am giving you an instruction to go to our London office in Ebury Street and fire him!”

 

I was aghast. “Magazines are all about content Arnold. Do you realise how well-connected Dev is? Especially in the European automotive scene, let alone all the other magazines that depend on him. I certainly can’t do without him.”


Quick replied: “I don’t care. These expenses are outrageous. When you’re in London, meet him, explain the background and fire him. Here’s his letter of dismissal.”

 

I might add, Arnold Quick was the failed CEO of a magazine group in the UK which went bankrupt, and he took offense at me pointing out that everything in the UK cost more, and with the currency conversion, Dev’s services were always going to be expensive – compared to Australia.

 

“Never mind, just do it!”

 

I flew into London in late September, Dev picked me up at Heathrow and after settling me into the guest room at his house in Sunningdale, he whisked me off to lunch with ‘a few of his mates’ at Simpsons on The Strand (a VERY expensive restaurant).

A ‘few’ turned out to be 20, made up of members of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and several high-powered PR men from a number of car companies.

After a sumptuous lunch, followed by cognacs we departed to the Modern Magazines’ offices in Ebury Street, opposite Victoria Station. Later I had to sign off the lunch tab on Dev's expense report, so I was well aware of his costs.


The intention of ‘the lunch’ was to show how well-connected Dev was in the motor industry – something I didn’t need to be reminded of.


We had a nice chat, I commented on the strength of his relationships, enjoyed tea and cakes, and then we returned to his home, with his Letter of Dismissal disposed of in a trash can outside the offices.

When I returned to Australia, Arnold Quick wanted to know how Dev took his firing, so I told him: “I didn’t fire him, he’s too valuable. Whilst I was in London I called all the other Editors back in Sydney, who knew nothing about your plan to fire him, and they were similarly as upset as I was at the prospect of losing such a valuable resource.”

 

Quick stomped around the office, swearing and shouting at me that I would be the next to go, and called in the company secretary to draw up my severance cheque. At that point, the company secretary pointed out that in the previous 12 months under my editorship, advertising revenue in MODERN MOTOR had close to doubled! So, I survived being fired too.

 

However, having sung Dev’s praises as a valuable resource there were some downsides. First, Dev was a dreadful journalist, who couldn’t put a coherent story together to save his life.


He usually had all the facts, but his copy (which was spewed out of a telex machine every morning, and usually about 12 feet long!), needed very severe sub-editing. What he WAS good at, was BS and story-telling!

 

It was also normal for the key nugget of every story to be buried in the last paragraph of the story. He didn’t have the skill to spot the headline, and to begin the story with that!

 

Then there were the reports from London that he had trashed a road test car; or had suffered an accident on a press event in Europe. I searched in vain for evidence of this, but my old copies of MODERN MOTOR didn’t come anywhere near highlighting his most serious offence, which I am able to now reproduce, thanks to the Jensen car company museum archives.

 

I should add at this point, that another of Dev’s saving graces was that he had so successfully wheedled his way into the very inner workings of the car industry in Britain and Europe, that in 1969 he had been overwhelmingly voted by his peers to become the President of the Guild of Motoring Writers – in those days, a much respected organisation in the automotive industry in Europe.

 

But, back to Jensen, and here’s the tale from the museum archives:



Dev and wife Angela before setting off for the 'test drive'.

It's worth pointing out that Dev didn't actually do any real damage to the Jensen, apart from some much-needed paint repairs. However, Jensen Motors clearly wanted to be rid of the car, and did 'a deal' with one of its dealers to acquire the car, prior to the launch of the latest model.

Originally the FF sold for just over 5500 British pounds, but as you'll see from the copy of the resale invoice from Jensen Motors to the dealer this car sold for a considerable discount.


Despite his colourful life, 'Dev' was a wonderful, jovial man who charmed everyone he met - he certainly charmed me - and despite his lack of writing skills, he provided MODERN MOTOR with enough 'scoop' stories and photos to ensure his longevity in London - until he retired to his birth city of Perth, Western Australia.

My life was richer for knowing him.

JOHN CRAWFORD